In horror I shrieked, tumbling downwards along a massive, winding tunnel that at last spat me out with a wash of dirt and grime and roots, my bottom smacking into the heavy solid ground and with surprise and aggravation and relief I cried, “Ouch!” and sat bemiffled there, gasping, the dust spiraling in the light from the hole that spread over from above. The crooning laughs of the three pests still I could hear distantly overhead, and in a flush of anger I tossed my hair back from my face with a whip of my head, stood and shouted upwards, “OH YES HA HA HA! I’m sure it was all a good laugh!” and in one last uproaring of crowing I heard the heavy block of concrete sliding back into place, and the light that shone shrunk slowly, closing me into a dimness.
The rush of adrenaline having left me, I came to realize how alone I was, and how dark it was. The surroundings were still visible, yes, and becoming more so by the second, but the room I had fallen into was eerie, dank, and wet smelling. I seemed to be underground, in some sort of burrow, as strings of roots corkscrewed from above me, and the dirt beneath my feet was loose, as were the walls crumbly. I could not tell where the light was coming from; the hollow seemed to be emitting its own dull luminosity, in a strange mist, tasting a slight like rain, and it glowed so softly, like gold.
I did an intake of my surroundings; all the walls had no doors, no exits—I had entered careening through the hole, and that was all. My only escape was now closed. The craggy ceiling that encased me was high, some body length from my reach, and to somehow get to the opening from which I had descended from seemed quite impossible. My pulse began to beat loudly, as the realization flooded me. I was trapped.
Quickly I scoured every inch of my dungeon, my mind scrambling for a reason for my denial. There has to be a way out. There has to be. In circles I wandered, apace. Panic began to set in. I clutched at my hair as sweat swiftly doused me, the mist and my frantic energy making quick work. Time passed. My clothes began to stick, and I heaved.
“Please! Can anyone hear me?” I cried, but the sound of my voice, dead off the walls, only sunk me deepen into fear.
I collapsed myself down onto the ground, hugging myself. I sat in quiet for a time, the dread rising in me.
“Nana, how could I have been so stupid.” I hushed, my eyes filling, but not to spill. And, once again I shouted, “HELLOOOO!”
The quiet stayed, and I hung my head into my knees. Trapped.
“OH FOR TRANQUILITY’S SAKE STOP SHOUTING.”
I jumped to my feet, my back pressing up against the wall as my eyes darted about the room.
“…Who’s there!” I shouted nervously, the unexpected booming, graveled bassoon voice having shaken me to my bones. When no reply came, I demanded again. “Who was that! Who’s here!”
“I’M HERE. MYSELF HERE. RIGHT HERE.” and so in a strange experience of both delusion and shock, I watched the wall across from me crumble and crack, gradually molding into a large face, with thick, luscious lips and sly, drooping eyes that bore out at me with two solid black onyx stones for pupils, and at last with a hard crack! a large root broke from the earth and bent out into a crooked, bulbous nose, a single strain of moss hanging freely from the right nostril.
I felt my knees shiver beneath me, and give a knock before I at last gave in and dropped, my legs splayed out from me as I rested my head against the earth, sitting, my breath shallow, my eyes wide.
“…Who are -” I barely breathed out.
“I’M HERE. ALWAYS BEEN HERE. ALWAYS BE HERE. BUT YOU – YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSE TO BE HERE. FELL DOWN THAT HOLE, DID YOU? WELL, A RUDE INTRUSION TO A MAN’S PRIVACY TO SAY THE LEAST.”
He sniffed at this, the moss swinging but still stuck, and his eyes glanced to the side, as if checking something, and then daggered back to me.
“SO. WHAT YOU PLAN ON DOING NOW? CAN’T GET OUT, NOW CAN YOU? NARRY. I SHOULD SAY NOT. GOT A BIT OF A PROBLEM THERE.”
Slowly, my wits regaining, I crept towards the face on my hands and knees, a suspicion in me building. “It is a problem,” I said, a slight tremor in my voice still but fading fast, “as there doesn’t seem to be, well, much of a way out.”
“YOU THINK SO DO YOU.” the grungy face garbled in rich tones swiftly back to me, nearly cutting me off, “WELL, SHOWS HOW THOROUGH YOU ARE. A LITTLE BIT OF A DUN HERE AREN’T WE—”
“You know the way out don’t you!” I snapped, swiftly kneeling upright and coming nose to nose with my unexpected dungeon mate, “Well if I’m such a bother, tell me the way out and I’ll leave you alone!”
“NOPE. CAN’T DO THAT.” he said, averting his eyes from me.
“And why not!” I said, moving my body so to meet his gaze.
“CAN’T. SAID NOT TOO. CAN’T DO WHAT ISN’T SAID TO DO.”
“Who told you not to show me the way out! Those three pesky rocks from the Cathedral upstairs?” I barked.
“NO.” the face said, sternly meeting my eyes, “YOU KNOW WHO SAID.”
In this I froze, a strange chill taking me, the sudden silence and mood slithering over the damp, misty air like a cloak. Yes. I did know who. The one person, thing, that was always with me, like a shadow or a disease in my veins. I stood slowly, my eyes rapt to nowhere.
“The Dark Magician.” I breathed.
“YUP. SO YOU SEE, I CAN’T BE DOIN’ ANYTHING FOR YOU HERE.”
“Well tell me one thing!” I lamented in exhaustion, after the last shiver left me, “If you know a way out then there is indeed a way out. Yes?”
“Alright!” I shouted to no one in particular, “Then all I have to do is find it!” and with this I punched my fist into my hand, new determination surging through me.
“NO YOU WON’T. NOT THAT SIMPLE.”
“What?” I cried, whirling back around to the face and bracing my hands upon his eyes. The face remained unhindered, and undeterred in his tone and cryptic nature.
“YOU WON’T FIND THE WAY OUT.”
“WON’T FIND IT.”
“CAN’T FIND IT. AND THAT’S ALL I HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THAT.”
He sniffed again, rolling his nose about, as if trying to dislodge the string of moss that still dangled from his nostril. In irritation I trotted away, looking around me as if there was something I had obviously missed that would just appear to me now. I shook my head. “There is nothing here!” I cried.
“OF COURSE THERE’S NOTHING THERE!” the face boomed, “I TOLD YOU YOU WOULDN’T FIND IT, NOW DIDN’T I! DIDN’T I TELL YOU THAT! QUITE YES I DID. AND YOU WON’T FIND IT.” He sniffed again, shuffling his nose back and forth as if it itched. An idea forming in my mind, I turned, my curiosity genuine.
“Does your nose itch?”
“GOODNESS YES! TERRIBLY! I CAN’T GET THIS PIECE OF INFURIATING MUCUS PINE SLIME FROM ME!” and as if in exasperation he sneezed. And then sneezed again; dust and fungus bits flying everywhere, but still the thread hung, hopelessly stuck. Exasperated he bemoaned, “CONFOUND IT! GOOD WOMAN, BE A DEAR, WOULD YOU?”
His eyes sloped in such a manner of sincerity, and his flapping lips seized into a pleasing smile.
“I’m sorry,” I said, my arms crossing, “I thought I was nothing but an intrusion and a dun.”
“OH PLEASE GIRL I AM IN AGONY!” he cried, after another heavy whiffing of his nose. Confidently, and with a sniff of casual air I strode forward, bending down slightly so to meet his face directly.
“Tell you what. I’ll help you with your -” my glance shifted momentarily to his mossy burden, “problem. If you help me with mine. Tell me the way out.”
Pained he looked at me, muddy gunk having started to gather around his eyes like tears, “I CAN’T DO THAT!” his mouth wailed.
“Well then you are out of luck.” I said swiftly.
“ALL RIGHT! ALL RIGHT!” and with a defeated grumble he averted his eyes downward, and giving him an eye, with deft fingers I reached out and snatched the thread from his nostril, him emitting a yelp as a clump of dirt sprang out with it before he drew in a breath of relief, a cooing awww releasing.
Feeling pleased, and tossing the moss to the side, I turned back to the face. “Now.” I said triumphantly, “Tell me the way out.”
“HA!” the face cried, “WAY OUT? YOU REALLY ARE A DUN! TOO TRUSTING IS WHAT YOU ARE.”
“What!” I shouted. “We had a deal – !”
“EVEN SO,” the face said, cutting me off, “ANNOYING AS YOU ARE, I’VE HAD ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU.” And in a sudden caving beneath my feet I once again found myself plummeting, but before I could barely get out a yell I splashed into a shallow pool, dirt and earth crumbling over me and splashing about me. Looking up, in shock, I saw a solid ceiling of stone, and in a yelp of bewilderment and anger a loud scraping sound cut me off and the stone began to morph, and with my eyes peering through my stringy, dirt laden hair, the face appeared from out the rock with ease, giving one final crackling, and leered at me.
“AND STAY OUT!”
And with that and a loud snap he disappeared, and I was again alone, and wet, and mad, and still no closer to the Dark Magician.
In fact, I had a feeling I was farther away then I had ever been.